Eating at a restaurant that is part of the Stephen Starr portfolio is a must while in Philadelphia. His restaurants have a fun vibe and great décor, and there’s something for both kids and adults on the menu.
- More about your oliver guide: Nichole Rowles
- Trip type: Family, City
- Activity level: easy
- Ideal length of trip: 3 DAYS
to & from
Easy to get to from Washington, DC and New York via Amtrak. If flying in from elsewhere, note that Philadelphia is a hub for American. Once there, Uber is quick and easy. If traveling as a family, it can be cheaper to take Uber than the city bus! (Buses run west along Walnut Street and east along Chestnut Street; fare is $2.25 per passenger and no discount is offered for children over age 5.)
Where to Stay
I recommend staying near Rittenhouse Square.
- Kimpton Hotel Palomar: Fun and funky vibe with brightly colored busts of Benjamin Franklin in the lobby and other nods to historic Philadelphia.
Where to Eat and Drink
Eating at a restaurant that is part of the Stephen Starr portfolio is a must while in Philadelphia. His restaurants have a fun vibe and great décor, and there’s something for both kids and adults on the menu. Some of our favorites include:
- Continental Mid-Town: Go for Sunday brunch. Adults: Order the calamari salad. Kids will like the flavored lemonades, including pomegranate lemonade and blueberry lemonade.
- Parc Brasserie: French bistro right on Rittenhouse Square. Order the fries!
- Pod: Asian fusion. If you are a party of six or more, request to be seated in a pod, which is a private booth that allows you to change the color of the lighting. Nine colors to choose from!
- Distrito: Mexican taqueria on the edge of Penn’s campus. Owned by James Beard Award-winning chef Jose Garces.
- Sweet Charlies: Rolled ice cream. But be prepared to wait in line in the evenings – and to pay $7 per order.
- Zahav: Sublime Israeli cuisine. Then buy the cookbook of the same name.
- Monk’s Café: One of the largest selections of Belgian beer in the country. Also famous for its mussels and pommes frites.
- Try one of Jose Garces’ other restaurants, such as Amada, which serves Spanish tapas.
- Vetri: Marc Vetri is another James Beard award-winning chef. His exquisite Italian restaurant seats only 32 so reservations are a must.
- Morimoto: his is Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s original restaurant (and another Stephen Starr restaurant.) Splurge on the omakase – the chef’s multi-course tasting menu.
What to Do
- The Philadelphia Zoo: The Philadelphia Zoo was recently cited by Time magazine as an exemplar zoo. Its newest installation, Zoo360, provides a network of “see-through mesh trails” that allow animals to explore the expanse of the zoo. We saw monkeys, goats, and lions above our heads!
- The Franklin Institute: Science museum. Be sure to visit the Sports Zone on the third floor. The Franklin Institute is famous for the giant heart that kids can crawl through and for its 350-ton Baldwin 60000 steam locomotive that kids can climb aboard.
- Reading Terminal Market: Large indoor farmers’ market with lots of food vendors. Try a soft pretzel rolled by the Amish!
- The Please Touch Museum: Huge children’s museum. Best for ages 5 and under. Popular exhibits include a play supermarket, construction zone, water play station and carousel.
- The National Constitution Center: Located on Independence Mall across from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. The National Constitution Center is an interactive museum that my kids found much more engaging than the tour of Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were debated and approved.
- Walk around the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League institution. Penn’s is a beautiful urban campus that is largely closed to cars. In front of the main library is a Claes Oldenburg sculpture of a cracked button that entertains kids who play on it like a jungle gym.
- The Barnes Foundation: Better for adults, but I’d be remiss in not mentioning it, one of the world’s largest private collections of Impressionist art. Located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, within walking distance of the large Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Unlike the Bureau of Printing and Engraving in Washington, DC, the U.S. Mint does not provide guided tours. Admission is free to the mint, and one simply looks down from 40 feet above onto the factory floor. We didn’t get very much out of our visit here.